Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Challenge of a Fairytale

Somewhere in the mists of the chill Yukon winter there is a way over the crusted snow, through the airs crisp veil of frozen watervapour and past the sundogs, to a place where tales originate. A place where anything can be.

A story is made in the telling. One can have the most interesting story premise, but it's the telling which draws the listener, holding their mind captive to the end.

As a writer, I'm held prisoner solely by the limits I place upon my imagination. And I have to recognise that often these restraints are subconscious; sometimes letting ones imagination run wild is scary, one never knows what things will be unearthed along the way, and I am learning to realize when this happens, slowly pull off the brakes and prepare for the rewards and challenges of the trail ahead. This takes courage; the courage to explore and rise to the challenge; to dare to write deeply, dedicatedly and fearlessly in a way which resonates with the unspoken inner being of humaness we all possess somewhere within our souls. It is something which has to be done consciously, faced and overcome with each story I now encounter.

I have hit this point earlier with the fairytale than with previous stories. It took weeks to figure out the plot. But, once I let go of the limits I'd placed on my imagination, the symbolizm and fantasy elements literally popped out and into place with the clarity of a landscape revealed as a veil of icefog dissapates beneath the suns hot rays on a cold day. And I now must walk across this landscape and spin it's story with the language necessary to do it justice.

But, despite having this road map, I found myself pausing. "You don't really have to write it all," my brain said, "It's a two part story. You don't need to actually tell the whole fairytale because the reader is only going to see glimpses of it through the eyes of the main character as she remembers it and applies it's lessons to her life."

I liked this idea. I savoured it's flavour in my mind imagining a canvas. The fairytale is the lightly outlined background (peach in my mind) the rest of the story painted over top. After all, the completed work will really consist of a more modern story told over top of the fairytale; in the writing of the top layer I could simply colour the parts of the fairytale that are meant to show through. Why trudge through the land of the unknown when one can follow the path of lesser resistance and still have the same affect; after all, I know the fairytale now; I understand how it applies and which pieces I need to tell in detail.

Then, I remembered the journey I've just made into the sparking land of magic and mystery which this fairy tale encompasses and how much I've learned in the process. I've learned that although simple in language, with archetyped characters and a style which tells more than it shows, fairytales are packed with symbolism and broad, deeply coloured layers as equally meanful as the the layers in more modern "show don't tell" tales. Don't be fooled however, into thinking fairytales tell everything. In a fairytale it's still what's "not said" which carries the deep river of meaning; a resonating symbolism revealing humanity and life knowledge in a form broad and deep enough even the youngest listener understands it and can apply it to his or her current life experience.

And this was the point at which I had my epiphany. If I chose not to actually write the whole tale in vibrantly coloured detail, I would deprive myself of  an opportunity to experience, grow, and learn some very valuable things in story telling, composition and word choice, the things which come from trying something totally new combined with the skills one currently has, as well as the possibility of learning something more of myself. I would be, to use a cliché,"chickening out."

And so I've decided. I'm going to go ahead and write this fantastical tale in it's entirety. And I look forward to reaping the rewards of a work well done, treasuring each moment of the journey across this land of fantastical happenings, while I dare to capture each telling detail of beauty and magic necessary to the weaving of this vibrant and totally new traditionally fashioned tale.

About the photos: 
1. Whitehorse YT - looking towards the bridge from the Dept. of Ed. parking lot.
2. Whitehorse, YT - looking south from Takhini Arena
3. Shallow Bay, YT - looking toward Lake Laberge (where Robert Service's poem Cremation of Sam Magee took place)
4. A doorway into the side of a church sitting 4 feet from the ground and opening onto a roadway in Toronto, Ontario.


  1. Hello! I'm Heathbird's friend and finally made it over here..! :-)

    A very interesting post... It is indeed very easy to be tempted to chicken out of doing something that is a lot of work but that deep down you know is the right thing to do, both in writing and in editing. But when we get over ourselves and just do it, it can be so rewarding and give us insights we would never have discovered otherwise.

  2. Hi Lena,

    I'm glad to see you :) I agree, I have had many insights into myself and my writing through exploring stories in the way they need to be told - as scary as it all is sometime it's very rewarding.